The Ibrox club warned supporters not to re-offend or else their one-game travelling ban will be doubled and Ibrox could be closed down for a European tie.
But chief executive Martin Bain openly criticised FARE for placing Rangers in the Uefa dock yesterday without communicating with the club or engaging with its existing anti-sectarian projects.
While Rangers acknowedged their problem with sectarianism and will take their modest punishment from Uefa’s control and disciplinary body, including a £71,000 fine, Bain was scathing about FARE’s involvement in the prosecution case and accused the fans’ group of being influenced by people with an anti-Rangers agenda.
“In terms of the UEFA case brought against us we have had serious concerns about the integrity of the evidence compiled by the FARE organisation and that remains the case,” said Bain. Rangers were found guilty of discriminatory singing at both the away and home legs of their Europa League qualifiers against PSV Eindhoven last month.
Uefa’s own match delegate did include offensive chanting in his report on the first leg in the Netherlands, but the one at Ibrox did not. FARE had their own independent observers at both games and they reported Rangers twice, which played a huge part in Uefa’s decision to prosecute.
Rangers want FARE to tell them who initiated the investigation into their fans and who submitted the evidence against them.
“We are also of the opinion that FARE have been influenced by people who make it their business to damage our club in any way they can,” Bain went on.
“We are committed to the eradication of sectarianism and believe it would have been more constructive for FARE to work with our club rather than against it. Instead, they submitted evidence to UEFA with a clear objective in mind and have shown a complete lack of transparency or accountability when asked for clarification on various aspects of that evidence.”
Bain also criticised those supporters who were guilty of bigotry, and revealed that Uefa’s disciplinary inspector had pushed for a tougher sentence than they eventually received. “We are bitterly disappointed that our club has been placed in a position where we are subjected to these kind of sanctions by UEFA.
“The club put its own case very forcibly to UEFA and the more draconian sanctions that were recommended by the disciplinary inspector have been mitigated to a degree. To be clear, we condemn sectarianism and there is no doubt the mindless behaviour of an element of our support has exposed the club to a very serious situation. The people who engage in this type of behaviour are damaging the club they claim to support.
“The majority of our fans understand the situation and would much rather focus on football. They show that clearly at Ibrox and the tremendous atmosphere they created at last weekend’s Old Firm match was a case in point.”
Rangers fans have now been convicted by Uefa for discriminatory songs and chants four times in five years. They were fined £13,300 for discriminatory chanting in Villarreal in 2006, £8280 for the same offence during another game in Spain, against Osasuna, the following year, and twice yesterday on two separate charges against PSV. They seem likely to take their punishment this time given that the penalties could be increased if they go to appeal.
Ally McCoist welcomed the fact his European tie as a manager at Ibrox would not be played behind closed doors. “I don’t want our supporters banned from watching their team,” he said. “We need to get the whole things sorted out. But I would have to say I’m against anything that stops our fans watching their team. Would a ban hurt the people we’re talking about? Listen, we all want to get the problem sorted. No matter what is takes, let’s get it sorted -- but I’m not sure a ban is the right idea.”
FARE last night denied any bias against Rangers and accused Martin Bain of stoking a feeling of victimisation among the club’s supporters.
Howard Holmes, chair of the FARE board, said: “We note the comments made by Martin Bain, Rangers CEO, after the hearing in Nyon today. It is disappointing to see a major European club continue to question the motivation of a body such as FARE in submitting legitimate observer reports at two European games. “The FARE network has a long track record in the area of tackling discrimination and developing initiatives to encourage social inclusion. Our expertise is widely acknowledged by European institutions in the football, governmental and social sectors.
“We are proud to have been a social responsibility partner of UEFA since August 2001. We once again categorically refute any suggestion of bias against or hidden agenda to damage Rangers FC. Mr Bain’s comments will inevitably continue to feed a sense of a miscarriage of justice and external blame amongst Rangers fans, rather than accepting the extent and nature of the problem that exists.
“Sectarianism is a very serious issue that has tarnished the name of Scottish football. We look forward to renewed and serious action to tackle the problem across the game in the coming seasons.”
Meanwhile, the proposed takeover of Rangers is now certain to drag on until next week at least. The independent committee on the Rangers board has asked prospective owner Craig Whyte for further clarification over aspects of the businessman’s proposals for the club.
The £52.5m bid is therefore on hold as Whyte prepares to answer the questions of the committee, headed by the Rangers chairman, Alastair Johnston. Whyte has reached an agreement with Sir David Murray, the club’s majority shareholder, and Lloyds Banking Group, the major creditor, over repayment of debt.